Torleif Härd's declaration of intent

Last changed: 11 October 2021

Torleif Härd. Professor at the Department of Molecular Sciences

As chairman of the Faculty Board, I want to work to ensure that SLU's and the faculty's respective strategies are implemented in a good way. This is the big and dominant overall task. There are many aspects and components here, and NJ's strategy 2021–2025 can in fact be seen as a kind of declaration of intent for the Faculty Board during 2022–2024. But I especially want to highlight a couple of things.

First: the systems perspective. Several of the various “the faculty intends to” items in NJ's strategy point to the need to, to a greater extent, adopt a holistic view, not least within the educations. All the major societal challenges require this. Previously, there was talk of "interdisciplinary", but interdisciplinary has developed as a subject. We need to educate our researchers and teachers in how to think and relate to interdisciplinarity, and we need strategies for this. (But we already do know a lot - the two major Mistra programs that have been established at the faculty over the past two years are both interdisciplinary).

Secondly: the parts of the strategy that include more subtle things that relate to perspectives, attitudes and values. The outside world influences our academic environment in a direction towards sustainability and resilience perspectives; we must work to ensure that these perspectives also fully permeate our activities. There are many other aspects here, which I do not list, butI develop the equality and equal conditions issue further below.

Also, with regard to the strategy, the faculty management and board have a collected a rather comprehensive material of ideas on how it can best be implemented. This material must now be processed, discussed and prioritized. And many of the best ideas will need to be funded through decisions in the Faculty Board.

Then I want to mention some specific issues that I think a lot about.

  • Leadership. I want to work for continued good leadership throughout the organization. My own leadership is based on clarity, participation and good communication. A university is a special environment. Admittedly, there is a line organization - it is required to clarify where the major responsibilities for finances, personnel and work environment lie. But at a university there is also what comes "bottom-up", and most really good ideas are actually moving in that direction. A leadership must be able to handle both of these aspects in a good way. It is crucial that the faculty management succeeds in this and that the work is characterized by openness, respect, sensitivity and transparency.
  • Skills supply and career paths. We have limited resources in the form of government grants to finance higher academic employments (though we have quite a lot of other assignments and grants). When recruiting, we must consider and weigh the need to prepare opportunities for careers within the faculty against the need for external recruitment in order to bring in new skills. At the same time, the academic organization must be stable and sustainable. Our faculty has built a structure based on distribution of the government grant to our subject areas. The structure also includes a target image for the staffing of these. We have been praised for this strategy, but we must constantly think about how and why we recruit to (or within) the subject areas.
  • Our uniqueness and relevance. We must safeguard and develop the activities and structures that are unique to our particular faculty. This applies to e.g. our plant reserach infrastructures i.e. the cultivation facilities, the field research stations and our long-term field trials. This also applies to our comprehensive environmental analysis. We will probably never be able to finance the environmental analysis directly - it is largely based on assignments. But we can staff and run educations and research in direct connection with the environmental analysis! This is also a priority. Then we are enormously proud and served by the many activities that make us visible in the media and in society in general. But I do not want to point these out specifically - we know which they are.
  • Our educations. We should be proud of the educations we offer. It is through these that we deliver the competence needed for the sustainable development of society. But our strategy clearly describes how we need to further strengthen the role of education and teachers. I think that this can be done in several ways, one of which can be to get away from the downpipe thinking in the field of education - education must be more clearly integrated into research, environmental analysis and collaboration. Another way is to strengthen status in roles as teacher and program director.
  • Psychosocial work environment, gender equality and equal conditions. These aspects are closely linked to our values. Or rather: they are linked to how we apply our values. However, the value base is, if you think about it, quite abstract and it needs to be decorated with examples to become more comprehensible and applicable. If we take gender equality as an example, as everyone understands, it is not a “quick fix”. But I am convinced that work that is partly systematic, but which also includes point initiatives in the form of activities and seminars, leads forward. I am proud that the faculty now has an action plan for gender equality and equal conditions. I am also proud that our faculty was the first at the university to develop a policy for accessibility.
  • The university - academic values ​​and attitudes. Universities have existed since the early Middle Ages and are thus at least 500 years older than e.g. business companies. The understanding of cultures and traditions such as collegiality, free choice of research issues and content in education, evidence-based reasoning and conclusions, the management and dissemination of knowledge, the awareness that knowledge is cross-border (or borderless) etc etc is not at all self-evident outside the university walls. In my opinion, we should work to preserve these values without appearing to be outdated. Right now we may be facing the challenge of researching and teaching at a distance in an environment that is not necessarily campus-based - it is important that we remain relevant in the ever-changing world without losing the academic value base.